Zambia ends presser due to allegation questions

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Zambia‘s news conference to preview Wednesday’s World Cup match against Spain was ended early due to persistent questions about an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the team’s coach, Bruce Mwape.

After the FIFA media officer vetoed one question, Mwape did respond to one journalist who asked if it would be for the good of the team if he stepped aside to allow them to focus solely on the football.

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“What environment affecting the team in particular?” he said. “What are you talking about? I would like to know because there is no way I can retire without reason.

“Maybe your reason is because what you are reading from the media or from the press, but the truth of the matter should actually come out, not just on rumours.”

Further questions were shut down by both the FIFA and Zambia press officers, with the former then ending the news conference early, leaving several journalists without a question.

The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) announced last September they had referred an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in the women’s game to FIFA, football’s governing body. The Guardian revealed in July that Mwape was among those being investigated.

Mwape was appointed as Zambia coach in 2018 and has led them to their first-ever World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Upon the publication of The Guardian’s article — which featured an anonymous player who did not want to be named saying “if he [Mwape] wants to sleep with someone, you have to say yes” — the FAZ referred to the statement they made last September.

A FIFA spokesperson said it could not comment on ongoing investigations.

Zambia opened their World Cup with a 5-0 defeat to Japan, dampening the enthusiasm which had built following a surprise 3-2 friendly win over Germany earlier in July.

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They play Spain, who opened with a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica last week, in their second group game in Auckland on Wednesday.

However, Spain coach Jorge Vilda has warned his side against underestimating their opponents.

“Don’t let the result and game against Japan fool you,” he said in a news conference. “Zambia beat Germany and are capable of beating anyone.

“In general, we had not given credit to what a great team Japan are. They could have scored more, but that doesn’t mean Zambia won’t be dangerous beyond [Racheal] Kundananji and [Barbra] Banda. They are quick on the counter attack and take advantage of any little mistake you make.”

Vilda added Spain have a fully fit squad to choose from and that back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who has still not played 90 minutes since recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, has trained well this week.

He is hoping the quality of Spain’s football could give them the edge in what he feels has been a very physical tournament so far.

“Based on what we’ve seen, it could be the most physical World Cup ever and the one in which everything is more balanced physically between all the teams,” he said.

“National teams are working better and better and have more resources available to them, which means results are closer. That’s the future, but I also think with physical equality, football will prevail.”

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